When you move into a new rental home, your landlord usually requires you to pay a security deposit. The security deposit is meant to protect the landlord, in case you cause any damage to the property, or if you owe them rent when you move out.
After you move out, you may have trouble getting your Security Deposit back. Use this guide to help you get your money returned.
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Follow the legal process to get your security deposit back in Virginia.
Watch a short intro to your options around security deposits in Virginia.
Learn about common problems Virginia renters have with security deposits when they are moving in or leaving.
In Virginia, the Security Deposit should not be more than 2 months' worth of rent.
Anything more than 2 months' worth is illegal.
The Security Deposit can be less than 2 months' worth of money.
Your landlord may want to use part of this money to pay for repairs to the home.
They do not have to return it to you within this time period.
After 45 days have passed, and your landlord hasn't returned your Security Deposit, then you can use the courts to try to get it returned.
You can sue for the full amount of the Security Deposit, or part of it, that you think the landlord owes you.
They are required to give you an Itemized List of what they used your Security Deposit to pay for. They must list out their costs and the price for each thing.
If they didn't provide you with an Itemized List (or, if you think it is incorrect), then you can challenge them in court.
This will be called a "Warrant in Debt" lawsuit (or a Civil Claim for Money).
You can find an online Warrant in Debt form here at the Virginia Courts website.
You should confirm which county your formal rental home is. You can find the right court to use with this list of Virginia courts: http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/gd.html
Then fill in the Warrant in Debt form with the information about:
You could ask for the whole Security Deposit back, or the amount of it you think the landlord should pay you.
You could attach a copy of your lease when you file the Warrant of Debt. This can provide evidence of the Security Deposit you paid.
After you file your Warrant of Debt with the General District Court, they will give you a court date for your hearing.
This court hearing is called the First Return hearing.
You'll be explaining the amount of money you’re asking for.
The landlord has the right to respond, and offer their side of the story.
The court will set another day and time for you to return.
This will be the full trial of the lawsuit, for the judge to make a decision.
You will have to prove that:
If the judge decides that you are correct, then you will get a court judgment for the amount you requested for your security deposit.
If the judge decides for your landlord instead, then you won't get your security deposit back.
You can use this court process to collect the money from your landlord, if they don't give it to you directly.
When should my landlord return my security deposit?
What should I do if my landlord is refusing to return my deposit?
There are a few things you can do when you move in and move out to ensure you receive your security deposit back.
This video explains the things you can do. It also explains what your landlord must do before keeping any of your security deposit.
In Virginia, a landlord cannot ask for a security deposit that is more than 2 months’ rent.
It can be less than 2 months' rent, but it cannot be more.
When you move into your home, be sure to make a written list of any damages. Also, make a list when you move out, and take photographs as well.
Ask for an inspection when you move in. Make a written list of any damages that you see within 5 days of moving in.
Sign the list, put the date on it, and give a copy to the landlord. Keep the list.
The landlord is supposed to do this, but sometimes they do not. If the landlord prepares a list, check it carefully and add any damages that you see that are not on the list. Keep a copy of that list.
Before you move out, make a written request to attend a move-out inspection. Be sure to give the landlord a phone number to notify you of the date and time of the inspection. The inspection should be held within 72 hours after you move out. After the inspection, ask for a copy of the landlord’s list of damages.
You may want to take pictures of any damages you see when you move in and of the condition of the rental when you move out. You may also want to have someone else look at the condition of your apartment when you move out so he or she could be a witness if necessary.
Once you move out, the landlord has 45 days to return the deposit, unless there are deductions that the landlord is allowed to take from the deposit.
Within 45 days of your moving out, the landlord must send you a written statement listing any damages or charges that he is deducting from your security deposit. He must also refund the rest of your deposit, after deductions, at that time.
Be sure to give your landlord your new address so he knows where to send your deposit and the list of any deductions from your deposit.
The landlord can deduct money from your deposit for 45 days after you leave the home.
During the 45 days after you move out, the landlord can use all or part of the deposit for damages that you caused to the property, as long as the damages are not “reasonable wear and tear.”
For instance, if you lived somewhere for a long time, the carpet may not look new anymore and the walls may need to be painted. That is reasonable wear and tear and you should not have to pay for the carpet to be replaced or the walls repainted.
The landlord may use the Security Deposit for other costs, as long as they are listed in the lease.
For instance, some leases state that the tenant agrees to pay the cost of carpet cleaning once she moves out. If that part of the lease is proper, the landlord can deduct for that charge.
The landlord can also deduct any unpaid rent or late fees from the deposit.
You can only use your deposit for you last month's rent if the landlord agrees to this.
If you do get them to agree, be sure to get it in writing.
If they do not agree, then you cannot do this.
The landlord must give you an itemized list of all the costs he is taking from your Security Deposit.
Within 45 days after you move out, the landlord must give you written notice of any deductions that he has made from the deposit. The landlord must list all the deductions that were made from the deposit.
The landlord must keep records for each tenant of all deductions for two years and you should be able to look at your records.
The landlord may try to take you to court to get more money from you to cover the damages.
The landlord can sue you for any other property damage and for unpaid rent or late fees which are not covered by the deposit.
If you don't get your expected security deposit returned, you can take your landlord to court.
You can file a lawsuit, called a Warrant in Debt, in the General District Court where the property is located. A fillable form of the Warrant in Debt is available on the Virginia courts website: http://www.courts.state.va.us/forms/district/dc412.pdf
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Find a Private Lawyer: To connect with a private lawyer, call Virginia Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-552-7977 or go to their website at https://vlrs.community.lawyer/. Some lawyers charge $35.00 for an initial interview.
Contact Legal Aid: To seek help from the legal aid group Legal Services of Northern Virginia, visit https://www.lsnv.org or call (703) 778-6800.
If you are not in Northern Virginia, or need to find other groups, you can find a list of Virginia legal aid and help groups here, for more legal and financial assistance.
Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of a person's situation.
Therefore, the information on this page cannot replace the advice of competent, local legal counsel. This is general information, and not specific advice.
Please contact a lawyer in Virginia to help you with your specific situation.
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